Tackling a difficult and sensitive subject on film is very brave, and
also important in showing how awful sexual abuse is and the damaging
effects it leaves on the victims. While a difficult subject, generally,
due to the amount of ignorance and generalisations it garners (with
victim blaming for example), it needs to be addressed more.
Like my fairly recent (a couple of months ago) viewing of 'The Girl in the Book', 'Una' is a tough watch but overall very rewarding, being beautifully done and emotionally powerful. Based on David Harrower's play 'Blackbird', although not a victim of sexual abuse, 'Una' really resonated with me and shows no signs of being afraid to show the full effects and not trivialise it. It also captures the claustrophobia of the play so that there is plenty of tension, but does it in a way that opens things out and not make it feel stage-bound (a danger with films/television translated from plays).
'Una' is not flawless. It does drag somewhat in the middle act and the shifts from past to present day to start with are not always clear. Otherwise, there is very little wrong with it and it does a huge amount right.
It's a good-looking film, being very nicely and atmospherically shot and lit. The music is never intrusive or too low-key, it doesn't overbear the drama while still having presence and in no way does it feel inappropriate.
Benedict Andrews directs with a suspenseful touch, passion for the subject and potent realism, he doesn't allow the film to hold back nor does he allow it to go overboard with the unsubtle. 'Una' is not always subtle but that is not an issue, the subject itself isn't subtle either. The script is taut and poignant, with the confrontation between the present day Una and Ray having so much harrowing truth.
What really makes 'Una' particularly good are the storytelling and performances. The story may drag in the middle at times, but the final act is electrifying and logical, not trivialising the effects of the abuse like the final act of 'The Girl in the Book' did and rings true far more. The confrontation is particularly harrowing while the main characters' thoughts, darkest desires and motivations are just as frightening, complex and difficult to fathom. On the most part, the past (through flashbacks) and present day time-lines are structured clearly and beautifully intertwined.
Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelssohn's performances are positively on blistering fire, particularly Mara, while that of Ruby Stokes is also hard to forget in the best of ways.
In conclusion, not quite one of my favourites of the year or ever, but powerful and brave film and that it was not an easy watch, considering the subject it's portraying, worked in its favour rather than against it. 8/10 Bethany Cox
When a young woman unexpectedly arrives at an older man's workplace, looking for answers, the secrets of the past threaten to unravel his new life. Their confrontation will uncover buried memories and unspeakable desires. It will shake them both to the core.
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October 01, 2017 at 12:50 PM